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Pride in the Work Place

LSU\'s Tommy Moffitt is the 2003 Samson College Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year
by: David Purdum
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Tommy Moffitt demands and gets results. He’s just not always there to see them.

Moffitt, AFM’s Samson Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year, helped tighten up Tennessee as the Vol’s head associate strength and conditioning coach from 1994-97. In 1998, after Moffitt had accepted a position under Butch Davis at Miami, Tennessee upset Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl to capture the first BCS National Championship. Bad timing.

Moffitt spent the next two years in Miami and helped the ‘Canes return to national prominence, before accepting the strength and conditioning coordinator position at LSU in 2000. In 2001, Miami beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and captured the national title, the school’s first in 10 years. Again, bad timing.

But through experience, Moffitt’s timing has improved.

In his fourth year as LSU’s Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, the Tigers beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to win the 2004 BCS National Championship, the school’s first national title in 36 years.

“It was like I hadn’t slept in four years,” he said. “I felt like we had all the tools to win it before the season started, as long as we stayed healthy. It was a dream come true. Having such a team full of hard workers and great guys made it that much better.

“This team was so full of unselfishness. Everybody cared more about the team’s success than their individual goals and aspirations. We had 52 guys that had perfect attendance for the entire season. They didn’t miss a workout or conditioning session all season. And that’s saying a lot. Their reward was a national championship.”

Funny how Moffitt’s timing was off for so long, because timing is a critical factor in what he teaches.

“You have to teach an athlete when he must be explosive during an exercise,” he said. “The timing and coordination of your effort is more important than the exercise. For instance, in the power clean, if you explode with the weight sitting on the floor, your momentum is going to decrease by the time you get the barbell to your shoulder; then you can’t clean it. You have to overcome inertia first and get the weight moving, get it into a position where mechanically you can apply optimal force to the bar to get it to rise up. In teaching that, I tell my coaches that we have to use examples of football during our training in the weight room.”

Moffitt even gives certain exercises names that directly reflect when and where on the field the athlete will benefit from the exercise.

“We show them how what they’re doing is very similar to blocking, tackling or whatever skill you’re talking about. Everything we do we try and tie it with football and make it as specific as possible. In order for us to do that, we have to use examples of football while doing the exercises.

“We call clean pulls ‘tackle breakers.’ While our running backs are doing those, we’re talking about breaking tackles. When we’re squatting, we talk about the goal line. Every time we come out of the bottom position on the squat, I want them focusing and visualizing that we’re on the goal line and we’re either trying to score or we’re trying to keep an opponent from scoring.

“When the receivers do box step ups, one of the things we talk about is visualizing jumping over a defensive back and picking the ball off the top of his head.”

Name dropping also plays a role in Moffitt’s motivational techniques.

“When I was with Santana Moss at Miami, he used to do 308 pounds for a set of five on the box step up. Josh Reed did 296 pounds,” said Moffitt. “If I’m talking to a freshman receiver, I tell them why we’re doing it and how heavy another great receiver I’ve coached has done them.”

Moffitt got his start coaching at John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, La., from1987-1994.

“We had a good strength program and by hiring Tommy, we wanted to maintain it and do the best to improve it,” said head coach J.T. Curtis. “He really took off with it. He researched it, installed a better environment and really improved the program.”

John Curtis won two of its state-record 18 championships while Moffitt was orchestrating the Patriots’ strength and conditioning program. Part of his duties at John Curtis was teaching karate, something he still implements into his program today.

“Karate is another way of making players work, another way of lifting their general work capacity,” he said. “It’s different running and lifting work. It’s another ground-based activity. There’s a tremendous amount of ankle and hip flexibility involved in the stretching and kicking.”

At John Curtis, Moffitt taught karate twice a day. At LSU, the Tigers practice karate once a week on Wednesday nights.

“It was one of the first things I wanted to start doing again, when I got to LSU,” he said. “You’d be amazed at how proficient some of our guys are at it. We’ll bring black belts in to work with our guys, and even they are amazed.”

Besides the flexibility, the art of delivering a blow is another major benefit from karate, Moffitt says. “When I was a kid, Golden Gloves boxing was very big. My older brother Charles coached it at the YMCA. So there wasn’t a problem with me knowing how to punch someone. But now a days, boxing is not a sport that young kids grow up participating in.”

“There’s a technique to punching, blow delivering,” he added. “You’ve got to be able to use your hands in football today. If you don’t know how to deliver a blow with your hands or block somebody trying to deliver a blow with their hands then you’re behind.”

But karate is only one part of Moffitt’s intricate strength and conditioning program, known as the 4th Quarter Program. Moffitt and his staff stress five areas in the program: discipline, commitment, toughness, effort and pride.

“The key is to make them believe that they can be disciplined,” he says. “Discipline is the most important. We teach the little things all year around. Do what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, exactly like you’re supposed to do it. Then you have to do it that way every time. If they don’t we’ll move the line back 10 yards and do it again.”

The 4th Quarter Program begins directly after the season ends for the Tigers, which this year wasn’t until the middle of January. It runs until spring football starts and then begins again in June, running until the season begins. Moffitt is a hands-on coach and participates in a lot of the drills. He once ran 52 110-yard sprints in one day, two sets of 26.

“Our staff teaches pride,” he said. “We make them give effort. Every staff member we have believes in these five things – discipline, commitment, toughness, effort and pride. We lead as a staff. We meet as a staff at 10:30 a.m. And talk about what we’re going to do that day. It’s as serious as two-a-day training.

“The players and coaching staff deserve as much of the credit as I do. Our guys have such great attitude; our head football coach (Nick Saban) is awesome and supports me 110 percent. Long before we ever won a national championship, he believed in what I do and I believe in his system too.”


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